Bet Me, But Make It Cowboys: A Review of The Maverick's Wedding Wager by Joanna Sims
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Last week, I promised you some romance and I don’t break my promises. Welcome to my exploration into Harlequin Romance novels.
I broke into my mother’s stockpile of Harlequin novels and found a book that I felt I could best stomach. So say hello to The Maverick’s Wedding Wager, book three of the Montana Mavericks: Six Brides for Six Brothers series. Full disclosure, I picked this book because the series title was very close to the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I am simple theatre trash, I make a connection to musical theatre and that’s all I need.
The Maverick’s Wedding Wager was written by Joanna Sims, and like many Harlequin series, the other five novels in the series are written by other authors. For this review, I will only be talking about Sims’ book but I will mention some overarching plot points. As always, a spoil alert is in order.
The Maverick’s Wedding Wager follows Knox Crawford and Genevieve Lawrence. Knox is the third oldest brother in the Crawford clan. He, his father, five brothers, and six-year-old niece moved to Rust Creek Falls, Montana from Texas somewhat recently. Once the large family have settled into their new town, the patriarch’s goal becomes marrying off his six sons.
That is all information that’s laid out in the first book, but I got to enjoy that as reminder information in book three. It wasn’t hard to follow along with the overarching plot, but I do have to say the way Sims presented it made me feel like I was being talked down at. I don’t really know exactly what to say about it, but the vibes were just off.
Back to Knox and Genevieve though. Knox is next in line to be married since his two older brothers tied the knot fairly quickly. His father has the local wedding planner playing matchmaker for all of his boys, and Knox doesn’t want to play along. He would much rather find a life partner on his own. This is where Genevieve comes in. Knox considers her a friend, the pair get along super well, and he thinks she’s perfect for the plot he has in mind; he also states it doesn’t hurt that Genevieve is very easy on the eyes. He’ll state she’s gorgeous many times throughout the book that he sounds like a broken record.
Anyway, his amazing plot is to get married in name only. He doesn’t want to be a pawn in his father’s game so he decides to ask a woman to marry him, and then after the rest of his brothers get married, the pair can get a divorce; Genevieve is the perfect woman to do this with.
You see, she doesn’t want to get married. She has plans to leave Rust Creek Falls for sunny California. The only problem with her plan is that she doesn’t have the money to do so. Knox can pay her way to California if she goes along with his plan though. She’s still not keen to go along with this idea. She’s a strong, independent woman who can make her own way to California. It’s not until he literally bets her to marry him that she agrees.
Let me type that again, Knox bets Genevieve that she won’t marry him. Genevieve, being the bull-headed, strong-willed woman who needs to make bets with everyone in town ends up accepting the bet and thus our story begins.
The day after this bet, the pair get married by a friend of Knox’s father in the next town over.
The rest of the book is the newlyweds making everyone around them believe their marriage is legit. Except they actually fall in love and do indeed want to married by the end.
Wow, would you imagine that. Our two main characters, in a Harlequin romance novel, fall in love. I don’t know why I’m dragging this couple and the fake relationship troupe. This is a romance novel. The readers expect these two to be in love and have a happy ending in two hundred pages. But as someone who doesn’t read, nor do they generally like and enjoy the romance genre, I can’t help but roll my eyes. I have no stakes in this relationship. I’m not questioning if they’ll ever get together. Their relationship is just blah and predictable. I wasn’t banging my head on a table, so that’s a point in this book’s favor.
Knox is not a point in this book’s favor though. Knox has no discernible personality. Truly, it feels like Sims focused all her time and energy into making Genevieve likable and an active female character; we’ll get to her in a minute though, right now we’re focusing on Knox.
This man is supposed to be a Cowboy Prince Charming. He’s rich. His family owns a ton of land and he loves the animals his family owns. He has an adorable puppy who is the highlight of the book. He’s a gentleman, but he’s also rugged. He has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove to his father that he’s his own man.
That’s it, that’s all Knox is. Sims literally includes a scene where he has the chance to have sex with Genevieve when she’s drunk, but he says no and walks away. I’m not sure what Sims wanted to prove with this scene other than Knox is a “good guy.” Congratulations, you’ve created a decent human being. The bar is literally on the ground. All she has done is create the shell of a character.
Thankfully Genevieve has some characterization. As I’ve already stated, Genevieve is strong-willed, she doesn’t back down from things,that be a bet or a fight,and she’s a hard worker. She has her own business that she started from the ground up; she enjoys being her own boss. Genevieve also isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, she works with horses all day after all, and she has a wild side.
Sims doesn’t explicitly state the following about Genevieve, but it’s heavily implied in her interests and childhood. It should come as no surprise, but Genevieve is not like other girls.
When she talks about growing up, Genevieve clearly states that her time was spent horseback riding with the boys instead of playing dolls with her sisters. She’s sooooo not like other girls. She’d rather go off roading or ride her horse bareback instead of baking or getting her hair done. She’s soooo different than other girls.
While this book is plagued with the “not like other girls” subtext, it is interesting to note that gender roles are slightly flipped in our couple’s relationship. Surprisingly, Knox is the home maker and cook. Genevieve doesn’t do much around the house if I’m being completely honest, but it should be noted that she spends her days mainly working with clients and training Knox’s dog Silver. This dynamic was refreshing to see in a text like this. It was not something I was expecting.
Don’t think this book is full of feminist ideals though. Nay, nay. Sims includes the following line on page 205:
“Genevieve is begging for you to step up and be a man and claim her.”
For context, this is one of Knox’s brothers talking to him [Knox] about the recent marriage. Nothing says romance like being claimed by a man. At this point there are only a handful of pages left in the book, but I actually had to put it down and scream into a pillow when I read that. I needed a break maybe ten pages from the end because I couldn’t go on with that archaic idea.
I’m glad I did that because in the last ten pages Knox and Genevieve decide to have a baby. The couple that got married on a bet, have been married for one month exactly, decide to have a baby. Genevieve, the woman whose dream was to move to California and continue to build and expand her business, gives all that up to be a mom.
Listen, deciding to have a kid is great. Like you do you. If you and your partner are in a financially and emotionally stable place to have a baby, and you want to have one, that’s great. But this decision comes out of left field for these two. Genevieve has been adamant about focusing on her business; she didn’t even picture herself being married anytime soon let alone having a child. Her goals didn’t involve marriage or kids. Her original plans didn’t please her parents; she’s 32-years-old, her biological clock is ticking! She’s running out of time to have a family! So when Sims concludes the book with Knox and Genevieve planning on having a baby, it feels like she’s erased Genevieve’s original goals and wants.
I understand that dreams and wants can change and evolve over time, but Genevieve wanting a baby feels like a decision that was made due to pressure from others and not an actual want. More time is spent where the main couple are questioning if the one truly likes the other or not. That’s not a healthy foundation to begin a family on. The baby at the end just feels thrown in there for all the wrong reasons. It’s like Genevieve just up and decided to give up her business and her goals when she could instead be a mom.
Not every love story needs to end with a baby. From what has been mentioned in this book regarding the first two books of the series, all the couples thus far have a child directly after getting married. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not every couple’s dream. Some diversity would be nice.
Seriously, Genevieve and Knox’s relationship would have been fine without them rushing into having children. The ending would still have been considered happy had the pair continue to grow to love and respect each other. Honestly, they would have been the perfect couple to not have children in this series. But alas, a “happy” equals having a child in this series.
I’m not sorry for that rant you had to endure. Honestly, you lucked out with that rant instead of getting one about the grammar and typos in The Maverick Wedding Wager.
Harlequin novels aren’t known for their immaculate, polished writing; authors tend to bust a novel out each month so some grammar errors are to be expected. Now, I can’t speak about all Harlequin novels, but this one had some *chef kiss* beautiful errors. My favorite was the following:
“My mother died her hair at home each week.”
Yep, “died” not “dyed.” Had Sims written this sentence differently, we could have gotten:
“Each week, my mother died...”
That was my favorite typo in the whole book and I just felt like sharing. I hope you got a laugh out of it as much as I did. I think we all needed it after my myriad of rants that make up this post.
I do want to add a disclaimer though. As I stated in a recent post, I am not the end-all, be-all when it comes to grammar. I myself make so many grammar errors in these reviews; commas are not my friend as we all know. But when I read books where the grammar is all over the place, I feel that’s it’s only fair that I mention the issue.
And with that, I bide you all adieu. We have reached the end of this week’s review. I have dipped my toes into Harlequin novels and I don’t plan on returning any time soon. I will stick with my horror novels, thank you very much.
I’ll see ya next week! Happy Valentines Day, y’all!